There is a recognised need for methods that permit rapid estimation of the sanitary quality of water e.g. during raw water monitoring and emergencies involving water treatment failure or main breaks in a distribution network. In this study, two models for predicting the level of faecal contamination of water were studied. The first format, based on measurement of b-galactosidase activity by the automated Colifast analyser, detected faecal contamination of high levels, corresponding to >15 thermotolerant coliforms (FC)/5 mL, in 1-3 h, in a format that allowed for semi-quantification of results. By setting up a cut-off level, the system could be used as an operational tool identifying random increases in faecal contamination during routine raw water monitoring. A second Presence-Absence format was dependent upon the growth of low levels of FC with subsequent detection in the Colifast analyser. 95% of water samples containing 1-15 FC/sample volume showed positive detection after 11 h.

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